Dr. Damon Horowitz quit his technology job and got a Ph.D. in philosophy — and he thinks you should too.
“If you are at all disposed to question what’s around you, you’ll start to see that there appear to be cracks in the bubble,” Horowitz said in a 2011 talk at Stanford. “So about a decade ago, I quit my technology job to get a philosophy PhD. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”
As Horowitz demonstrates, a degree in philosophy can be useful for professions beyond a career in academia. Degrees like his can help in the business world, where a philosophy background can pave the way for real change. After earning his PhD in philosophy from Stanford, where he studied computer science as an undergraduate, Horowitz went on to become a successful tech entrepreneur and Google’s in-house philosopher/director of engineering. His own career makes a pretty good case for the value of a philosophy education.
An interesting article at HuffPost on the value of studying philosophy. As a manager who looks at my share of resumes, I’m not sure, from a career standpoint, how good of an idea it actually is for students to major in philosophy if they don’t want to ultimately be philosophers. It seems like most professional philosophers don’t really encourage lots of people to go into the field primarily because, like many academic fields, it’s already somewhat crowded.
That said, I do think it’s a very good idea for everyone to learn the basics of philosophy. I wish my undergraduate education had included introductory philosophy courses, in the same manner that it included introductory history, English, math, or economics. All of those courses served me well, and a basic philosophy course would have been of immense value. (As it was, I didn’t get exposed to any philosophy until my grad school research methods class.)
For most people, that basic course would be enough. It’s the Pareto principle, or 80-20 rule. 20% of the effort usually yields 80% of the results. I think having a basic understanding of philosophy tremendously broadens your horizons. It should be as required as English courses. If course, if more people took those intro classes, more people would likely end up majoring in philosophy, so two birds one stone.